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Vodafone’s 3G Outing

Vodafone Group plc’s (NYSE: VOD) U.K. division today launched 3G data card services for notebook PC users and talked up wireless LAN and wireless MAN technologies as it tries to tempt business users to adopt a carefree, mobile lifestyle.

At the 3G launch in London, new Vodafone U.K. chief executive, Bill Morrow, revealed that the carrier’s future strategy for the corporate data market will include a multimode PC card with integrated 802.11 wireless LAN and high-speed cellular capabilities.

“WiFi is coming within months,” said Morrow, who added that as wireless protocols such as IEEE 802.16 and IEEE 802.20 emerge, Vodafone will eventually “need to stitch all these networks together.”

Of course, incumbent wireline operator BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) has already committed to testing WiMax (see Intel's Got WiMax Headroom). There's also plenty of buzz from other major operators about the fixed wireless standard but not much in terms of public commitments yet.

In fact, Morrow himself preferred to move swiftly on and focus on 3G instead. Vodafone's new service offers laptop users 364-kbit/s download and 64-kbit/s upload via a Vodafone client application -- called a “dashboard” -- that allows users to access the Web, check email, send SMS, or connect to a corporate VPN.

The dashboard also shows other nice-to-know information -- such as how much data the user has downloaded, what the current upload and download data rates are, and the peak data rate for the current session.

For footloose business travelers, the 3G card service works in Japan, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Intriguingly, Morrow also hinted that Vodafone users will soon be able to use Verizon Wireless’s high-speed 3G network being rolled out across the U.S., even though Verizon uses a different 3G standard. “We have plans that will let our users roam to the U.S.,” says Morrow. “But the details are still private.” [Ed. note: Private, ha! We'll see about that!]

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

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